Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Retro Review

The original Resident Evil trilogy on PlayStation were classic survival-horror games. The genre itself was rooted in the conventions of adventure games. The franchise was not intended to be an action game series.

Players would find themselves scrounging for whatever limited resources possible and always looking for obscure keys. Other times you may find yourself having to figure out cryptic puzzles or where to use some mystifying object to open a way forward. This was a key pillar in Resident Evil games as a whole.

Since Resident Evil 2 was such an enormous hit, Capcom was eager to quickly follow up on it. The next generation consoles were looming on the horizon so orders were passed to make a sequel. Resident Evil: Code Veronica lost its numerical designation and the gaiden game, Resident Evil: Last Escape, became Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Developer: Capcom
Producer: Capcom
Platforms: SEGA Dreamcast, Nintendo Gamecube (reviewed), PlayStation, PlayStation 3 (via PSN), PSP (via PSN), PSVITA (via PSN), Microsoft Windows
Release Date: November 11, 1999
Players: 1
Price: $5.99

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, like many 90s survival-horror games on PlayStation, used pre-rendered backgrounds and tank-controls. This staple served a purpose for the genre and it was for the sake of friction. This creates tension while navigating, while also maintaining consistent control between the 2D backdrops.

The picturesque backdrops lend a significant cinematic flair to the franchise, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was no different. As far as the PlayStation trilogy goes, this entry proved to have the most detailed and sophisticated environments of them all.

The tank-controls are necessary in a game like this where the camera cuts to various angles. Holding up on the d-pad means that Jill will always move forward, regardless of the perspective.

Some people may struggle with this control configuration but Resident Evil 3: Nemesis wouldn’t work without it. It is not about landing shots since enemies have generous hit-boxes- it is about Jill’s placement.

Unlike its predecessors, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis aims to be different, and embraces situations where players get to be trigger happy and “make zombie go boom”. This means having to stand in one spot and deplete ammo on upwards to seven undead in a room.

Since the environments are laid out in long narrow passages, it is not viable to kite some brain eaters and to John Elway your way past them. The dodge mechanic is just not a reliable means to avoid damage, and how it works is incredibly vague and inconsistent.

It can feel totally random to pull off successful dodges, especially when throwing down with everyone’s favorite beefy boy. While it is optional to fight Nemesis, you ultimately will want to. Putting him in his place means crucial weapon part upgrades.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis does not mess around with its difficulty. You are either going in with a strawberry daiquiri, or you’ll be a man and down the whole bottle of rum. There is no normal: only a virgin easy mode, or the chad hard mode.

This matters because you won’t get to enjoy all that Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has to offer. You must pick hard, and never look back. On hard, Nemesis lives up to his name and is unbelievable cruel in a fight.

Unlike Resident Evil 3 (2020), Resident Evil 3: Nemesis actually has the main antagonist in the title. The reason is because Nemesis is strongly featured through out, unlike the remake. This is where Capcom’s miscalculation on the gameplay show’s, it is just too difficult to fight this leather clad freak and not take several rams to Jill’s baby-maker.

No matter how effective you may get at dodging, it rarely guarantees that you can pull it off every time due to some of the camera angles, and just how fast Nemesis can move. It is a war of attrition regardless because there is no demand for accuracy, since Jill only has to be facing the beast to give him a face full of bullet bukkake.

In the older Resident Evil games, battles were sometimes puzzles or would require to exploit some kind of weakness. Other times you were able to run and quickly land a few shots and run away again. Resident Evil’s strengths and appeal was adventure gaming flourishes; action didn’t become a pillar until Resident Evil 4.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis comes with several interesting puzzle designs. The ones that make the most sense involve getting equipment for city utilities to advance. The stupid ones make no sense in the logic of a downtown city area, and come off as arbitrary Resident Evil puzzle no. 18.

The absolute most egregious example is the ridiculous stone book Jill would have to lug around, to place into a statue, to open a compartment for another absurd stone object, which will lead to a battery, to turn on a lift. The sequence is not inherently bad; the context needed to be rethought out to make sense in a run-of-the-mill American city.

A major departure in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis from its predecessors is the lack of themed keys. While exploring, Jill is more likely to find a few one time use key item that needs to be used in the right area. Rarely will Jill need to put too much thought into her route, since so much of the game is straight forward outside of a few choices.

Unlike Resident Evil 2 or Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Jill’s story is a footnote in the grand scope of the Resident Evil universe. At best, it is a background event of the much more integral predecessor.

The one thing that can be gleamed from Nemesis, is that not all Umbrella goons are totally evil. Carlos and Mikail prove to be some of the more likable characters in the series’ canon. These boys ultimately prove themselves to be resourceful for Jill when the situation gets intensely bleak.

The plot is spartan, with the most basic outline of Jill just trying to get out of Raccoon City alive. There are no revelations or plot twists; just high stakes, and the looming threat of Nemesis and the impending nukes.

Some of the most impressive aspects of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, is how far it pushed details in the 2D backdrops, and how far the low polygon modeling had come. Jill’s model is especially impressive for a PlayStation game, with lot of curves and a wide range of very natural looking motions.

Enemies get the same level of attention of detail, and when playing the GameCube version the jaggies get smoothed out nicely. Impressive touches include the city backgrounds depicting a gradual degradation. As you progress further, you might notice street lights not working anymore, or fire hydrants running dry.

The cold stillness of the pre-rendered imagery truly adds an eeriness, that the full 3D RE Engine renders just cannot capture. It is as if time has stopped, and everything is just dead. There is no need for sophisticated lighting or shaders; it simply is spooky and uncanny.

The sheer size of how much area Jill gets to explore in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is impressive. Even the remake did not allow players to have this much access to Raccoon City. Some areas are optional, and some may get locked out if you go to another.

Subsequent playthroughs will feature altered cutscenes to keep you on your toes, and item placement may vary depending on what you have picked up. This is one of the reasons why Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is still such a highly revered entry despite its shortcomings; it has incredibly high replay value.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was the first time Mercenary Mode made its appearance. This amusing post-game diversion functions as a arcade like action game that takes pages from the movie, The Running Man.

The Mercenaries: Operation Mad Jackal is not that dissimilar to the 4th Survivor mode in Resident Evil 2, but with some added depth. Every enemy is worth a certain amount of cash, and has a specified time bonus attached. On top of this, you could combo bonuses if you are a fast enough killer.

This mode has you playing as the swarthy Carlos, dastardly Nicholai, or Mikail who reeks of vodka. Each one has a unique play style, but if you are truly clutch, you’re going to use Nicholai’s knife since if it earns a huge time bonus. The other two boys come with standard load outs.

The combat may not be best suited for this style of play, but it is worth playing it for the cash to buy unlockable content. Super weapons like infinite rocket launcher or the many sexy costumes for Jill add new life into the story mode.

There is much to appreciate about Resident Evil 3: Nemesis despite its shortcomings. The visuals were the tops out of the original trilogy, and the music is utterly suspenseful. It is a complete package with lots to do and see.

Acquiring a copy of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is not terribly difficult. There are many versions across multiple consoles that are plentiful to obtain. The best way to play it is on either a Dreamcast or Gamecube for smoothest image quality.

The most accessible and cost effective way to play Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is on PlayStation 3 via a download off of PlayStation Network. It supports cross play with PSP and the PS Vita as well, because sometimes a guy just really wants to be chased by a beefy boy in leather while he is away from his consoles.

Images: YouTube

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was reviewed on Nintendo Gamecube using a personal copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.


The Verdict: 7

The Good

  • Some of the best visuals the PlayStation was capable of, and they look amazing on Gamecube
  • Fluid animation and responsive controls
  • Alternate routes, multiple endings, merc modes and five costumes mean plenty of replay value
  • White knuckle run-ins with Nemesis are still terrifying, over 20 years later
  • The variable item placement keeps subsequent play-thrus interesting

The Bad

  • Level design is mostly looping hallways filled with enemies
  • Raccoon City infrastructure makes so logical sense
  • Jill's dodge mechanic is completely unreliable
  • The obtuse water puzzle
  • Fighting Nemesis can feel like a crapshoot


A youth destined for damnation.

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